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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Open Season on Fun, Spring Style

When Valentin Yudashkin said in an interview that this season "everything would be open," he did not necessarily mean that hemlines would soar or necklines would plunge.


But there was some truth to the statement. Yudashkin, one of Russia's premier designers, was being typically ambiguous. He certainly heaped plenty of material on his models during a spring presentation that paid tribute to the spirit of April Fools', but made a point of still showing a lot of skin.


"Don't take this show seriously," warned the organizer of the show, which opened last Friday at the designer's House of Fashion, located on Kutuzovsky Prospekt. "This is very unlike Yudashkin, but we are proud nevertheless."


A touch of whimsy, some mischief and a lot of fantasy revealed, however, that Yudashkin is indeed a designer to be taken seriously these days. Why else would there have been a team of French cameramen on hand to include the diminutive couturier in a film about 14 of the world's best fashion designers?


Yudashkin was in the mood to surprise, with flashes of skin, leg and derri?re peeking out from beneath layers of contrasting fabrics and textures. Models peeled off coats, blazers and skirts to reveal very small articles of clothing that were a cross between playsuits and bathing suits that wouldn't have been out of place in a nursery school playroom. This appeared to be the designer's playful way of dealing with the tired concept of the plunging d?collet? this season.


The show began with a whimsical demonstration of freckle-faced models sporting outlandish overcoats in improbable shapes. They billowed out, tapered in, were oversized and often looked ridiculous, but were extremely well tailored and extremely unusual in Russia, where sometimes the most boring Western creations are copied avidly by designers as if they were masterpieces.


A demonstration followed of bright satin parkas resembling quilts that buttoned up the back -- not particularly wearable, but worth admiring. His mini-trench coats, shaped like butterflies and hued in day-glo tones, were also part of his April Fools' message. But the audience laughed more at the models, who pushed each other around, smoked cigars and tried to act and dance -- a seemingly universal failing of fashion models around the world.


Yudashkin, however, didn't have to prove he knew what he was doing. He expressed his love of textures with his layering of eclectic fabrics. Models trotted down the catwalk with long, flowered mousseline skirts topped by long linen coats. Heavy wool clashed smartly with delicate tricots and cottons.


The midriff was determinedly bared with oddly cut waistcoats, halter tops and numerous bustiers in contrasting patterns and conical shapes that even Madonna might have appreciated. Jackets were not worn conventionally: Beautifully tailored blazers were irreverently tied around necks, rib cages and shoulders.


But during more serious intervals a d?fil? of pencil-thin women would saunter sedately down the marble runway displaying a number of his more exquisite designs. Elongated olive-colored sundresses were irresistibly paired with amply cuffed and amply cut coats that ran to mid-thigh.


Some of his suits, in keeping with last season's longer jackets and narrow, narrow skirts, were made with rich salt-and-pepper wools and bold geometrical tweeds. The look couldn't have been more classic. Some very traditionally fashioned jackets were then taken to the limit with Yudashkin's big name embroidered in silver thread on the sleeves.


Yudashkin also cultivated the Holly Hobbie look with naive prints and straw hats and a convincing paysanne theme of beautiful rust and lavender stripes with headscarves and long flouncing skirts, which inevitably came off.


The designer did not forget the boys: He included a couple of traditional tailored suits and overcoats in mulberry and bright blue that might have suited a mafia boss well. But the men's styles ultimately favored knit bellbottoms paired with collar-less, cuff-less and lapel-less jackets.


And he did not forget the accessories either. The hats, for the most part, were stuff that a milliner's dream might have been made of. Sometimes, though, models wore fuzzy caps that made them look like they had pink matted hair.


Along with diaphanous undergarments and some select pieces of decorative swimwear, the show culminated with the wedding dress, which revealed the most skin of all. Even the groom's suit was transparent.


Yudashkin is definitely on his way up. With a little April Fools' spirit thrown in to even the more sober designs of his prized haute-couture cache, this show was fun.